Improv For Impact: How To Actually Lead & Work Across Difference

In this week’s episode, I’m talking with Don Waisanen. Don is a Professor of public communication in the Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, as well as an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University and New York University. He teaches seminars, courses, and workshops on topics ranging from communication strategy and leadership to storytelling and improvisation.

I’ve known Don for close to a decade, when he joined the board of the organization that I had founded and of which I was ED. I was super excited when I saw his new book – Improv For Democracy, and wanted to talk with him about this unique – and actually really powerful – idea about how to find common ground and move to action with people whose beliefs and values we might think are different from our own. Then I learned about his second new book – both came out this year! – Leadership Standpoints, and we just knew we would have a great discussion about something that has felt increasingly urgent to both of us in recent years: how to work across differences to actually bring about change.

We’re in a time of such division and polarization, and the social change and social justice work that nonprofits are doing feel even more immediate – if that’s possible – than when I got into the work twenty years ago. At the same time, teams are changing – how we work with the people INSIDE our organizations: our staff, our board — how we need to think about communication and partnership is shifting in subtle but powerful ways.

This conversation with Don is exactly what I had hoped for — a frank, engaging discussion about actual communication and leadership strategies that leaders can use to meet people where they are, open up possibilities for partnership and collective movement towards action – on their teams, board, and in their broader work..